bg

The Eli Weiss Playbook: How to Optimize CX and Retention

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Eli Weiss is the Senior Director of Customer Experience at Jones Road Beauty. Eli has spent the last 8 years building and operating early-stage startups. He is particularly known for his work around Customer Experience and Retention at DTC brands such as OLIPOP and Simulate (NUGGS).

We sat down with Eli to dive into his deep domain expertise. We cover topics including:

  1. How startups can launch early retention efforts
  2. His KPIs and how he implements them
  3. Why data is as the core of great CX

“Ultimately, I find data is the most crucial component of great CX. To do my job well, I’m consistently exploring how I can leverage the numbers to put effective changes in place that will genuinely help our customers.”


Structuring Your Startup for Early Customer Wins

In the earliest stages of a company, regardless of category, CX is typically handled directly by the founder. It’s a great move, says Eli, since you’ll intimately understand what is or isn’t functioning up to snuff within your business.

But once customer support needs stretch beyond your bandwidth, Eli also strongly advises against outsourcing CX labor while you’re scaling.

Instead, consider keeping your CX efforts internal, in order to maintain the most accurate possible insight into what’s thriving and what’s breaking as the company grows. Unfortunately, this valuable insight can get lost with external help, context matters when solving problems. He recommends following this flow of operations as you build out an internal CX team:

Export Your Early Work

While an internal CX unit is ideal if cost and structure in the early stages don’t permit it: Find a freelancer who’s willing to commit to longer-term, in-depth efforts, rather than contracting the cheapest-rated personnel you can find. An added bonus is if they believe in the company mission, rather than thinking about customer efforts as completing tasks.

Bring on a Part-Time Generalist

As workloads scale with the company, Eli advises bringing on a generalist — likely part-time and new to the workforce or trying to get their start in your industry — in order to take on actionable (but time-consuming) tasks across support tickets, operations, marketing, etc. Whether it be you teaching them the basics or their natural ability, being able to give beginner-level reports will make life that much easier.

Aside from gaining an extra set of hands across teams, this will teach the cross-effects between various cogs of the company that ultimately make up the end-to-end customer experience.

Hire a Full-Time CX Position

Once your brand has the capability, you can convert a part-time role into a full-time one to maintain that consistency of company knowledge, or bring on a fresh hire entirely.


Creating the Bridge Between CX and Retention

In Eli’s experience, CX and retention have often been approached as highly segmented focus areas (i.e. paid acquisition versus organic growth versus other buckets).

Yet, in reality, the problem of preventing customer churn can typically be answered by deep familiarity with the actual customer experience.

As such, Eli recommends merging the two focuses by either:

  • Having one person handle both CX and retention — similar to the OLIPOP structure
  • Having the two teams function interdependently and but accountable to one another

“If you silo them, the retention team wonders how to win back users. And CX sits there with all the answers, because they’ve observed opinions on shipping times, return policies, and everything else that affects customer satisfaction.”


Good to Great: How Data Can Boost Your Existing CX

When it comes to designing for exceptional CX, Eli considers answering support tickets to only be the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile, harnessing data insights, both qualitative and quantitative, to continually improve the customer journey is the true core of an efficient engine.

As he tells it, that could be as simple as ensuring the data points on your website, i.e. discount rates and fulfillment times, are not setting you up to fail. One of the biggest red flags of a potential customer is not delivering on expectations, and they will always associate that with the brand.

This is a straightforward way to either fumble or drive your LTV — and even more of a reason to, again, keep CX efforts internal to maintain deeper access to all elements of the user journey.

In terms of specific tooling, his team at OLIPOP primarily utilized Source Medium to track performance metrics from end to end. This allows them to better isolate what exactly drives an OLIPOP customer to return for more.

“Data can answer questions. But I find it’s more impactful when it proposes questions, like when I see a cohort of very sticky customers and get to investigate what we did correctly — maybe a certain campaign or promotion.”


The Dos & Don’ts for CX Performance Tracking

When Eli was at OLIPOP, these were his core KPIs:

LTV

OLIPOP can track LTV by segment, i.e. where customers come from, their first-purchase characteristics, subscription vs. non-subscription, etc. LTV also goes hand in hand with repeat purchases and subscriptions. Eli describes a tool like Repeat as crucial for nailing consumer timelines for CPG reorders and providing a simple — and non-irritating — path for repeat purchasing.

NPS

The company also tracks NPS by factors like customer service scoring in order to practically gauge CX efficiency and profitability. Other elements include site quality, fulfillment speed and quality, and basic value prop. There are also a lot of theories and numbers that can provide false signals.

And, here are Eli’s metrics to deprioritize:

AOV

In Eli’s words, AOV is overrated for gauging retention due to its short-term frame for insight, hence his focus, from a CX perspective, on LTV.

Margins

Beyond a fundamental healthy margin, agonizing over ratios of shipping to unit pricing is also a short-term solution for CX and attempting to drive repetition.


How to Leverage Metrics & Take Action

Rather than relying on costly methods such as paid ads, Eli recommends leveraging your most loyal consumers for acquisition. For instance, he’d segment buyers who’ve purchased OLIPOP 10+ times and offer discount codes for free cases which they could share with friends.

Even more so, he believes the OLIPOP user can explain the product, and thus evangelize, far better than he could, simply because the buyer can actually communicate the experience of purchasing and truly loving the drink. User-generated Content (UGC) from your biggest fans goes further than you think when connecting with your next new customer.

Double Down on High-Repeat & High-LTV Buyers

In a similar vein, the OLIPOP team abides by the rule of thumb that once a customer hits the benchmark of placing three single orders, they’re more likely to convert to a long-term buyer.

Meanwhile, the opposite indicates their first or second-order will likely be their last.

Another insightful metric Eli finds most brands don’t test for: Users who’ve purchased OLIPOP 1–2 times in single orders before they subscribe are ten times more likely to be retained than subscribers who sign up right off the bat.

Steer Clear of Relying Too Heavily on Discounts

By successfully driving conversions through email, SMS, and similar channels, the OLIPOP team has been able to steer clear of repeated discounting. It’s a standard eCom tactic for retention — but one Eli advises any brand with a high-value CPG to avoid.

For instance, many DTC brands will attempt to retain a user who’s been absent for some time by sending them a noteworthy discount.

But with a soda product like OLIPOP, that’s priced at $2.49 (compared to a 75-cent Coke), a shopper will likely assume a marked-down can of OLIPOP is more reflective of its true value than the original pricing — implying your brand is marking up low-quality products for a profit. The result is not only a devalue of the brand, but the team going down a misguided growth path.

“We’re doubling down on the channels we own, like email and SMS, because no one wants to rely on Facebook every time they need purchases. Can we drive 30% of our revenue from our listservs? If we can, we’re in a terrific place.”

Adrian Alfieri

Adrian Alfieri

Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
Red Bay Coffee
Gooey.
Siete Foods
Sunsoil
Ugmonk.
Munkpack
Simulate
Everyday Dose
Backbone
ZBiotics
Semaine Health
Somos
Magic Mind
Uprising
Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Y Combinator
Liquid IV
Bev
Bev
Muddy Bites
MatchaBar
Remedy Organics
Facetheory
Krave Beauty
Stryx
One Blade
Doe Lashes
Barukas
Red Bay Coffee
Gooey.
Siete Foods
Sunsoil
Ugmonk.
Munkpack
Simulate
Everyday Dose
Backbone
ZBiotics
Semaine Health
Somos
Magic Mind
Uprising
Zox
Huron
XCJ
BelliWelli
Culture Pop
Bubs Naturals
Summer Water
Strong Coffee
Ritual Zero Proof
Wellnesse
Heights
Taika
Immi
Fly By Jing
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?
Ready to sell subscriptions without ripping your hair out?

Sleep soundly at night knowing we actually know what we’re doing

A world-class subscription experience requires world-class engineers.
It's painful hiring said world-class engineers, but we've done it (hence why Skio ends up being best-in-class).

Click here to see the Skio team
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company
Company